Researchers have developed a portable device that detects how much capsaicin a pepper contains with the help of a smartphone. Thailand-based researcher Warakorn Limbut and colleagues developed the device as a simple, accurate and cheap method to quantify the capsaicin content of chili peppers.
The report, which was published in the journal ACS Applied Nano Materials, may help suppliers who use capsaicin as a food additive to more easily quantify the contents within food samples.
In addition to imparting a spicy flavor, the capsaicin in chili peppers has several health benefits, including anti-oxidative, anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory activities. The ingredient is therefore well-positioned in the food industry for its nutritional benefits.
Other methods that have been developed for this purpose are complicated, time-consuming or require expensive, bulky instrumentation.
Nanotech yields pocket-sized equipment
The researchers made a portable device shaped like a small chili pepper that could be connected to a smartphone to display the results of the analysis.
The paper-based electrochemical sensor within the device consisted of graphene nanoplatelets doped with nitrogen atoms to improve their electrical conductivity.
When the team added a drop of diluted capsaicin to the sensor, the compound underwent oxidation and reduction reactions, producing an electrical current that the device detected.
After optimizing the sensor, the researchers used it to determine capsaicin concentrations in six dried chili samples. They added the chilies to an ethanol-containing solution, shook it up and then introduced a drop of the sample.
The device accurately measured capsaicin concentrations from 7.5-90 μM in the six samples, and could detect down to 0.37 μM in the diluted samples.
Demand for spicy flavors heats up
Chili flavors have recently heated up the low and no alcohol trend. The tingling sensation caused by the capsaicin provides a sensory experience to those drinking non-alcoholic beverages.
In the better-for-you alcoholic beverages space, Gold Coast Ingredients recently highlighted chili flavors in hard seltzers.
Chili flavors have also held a top position in international flavors, such as in the snacking sector.
Savory snacking spiked this summer as consumers stayed more at home. Global flavors, such as sweet and spicy notes, saw increased interest as consumers “traveled” through snacks.
And this summer, European Free Dry debuted gourmet ingredients including freeze-dried chili marinated shrimp, available as whole pieces or as a flavoring powder for snacks and ready meals.
By Missy Green
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